A Dragon and a Phoenix

Chapter 29

At my abrupt movements, Poppy immediately cowered and covered her face. Realizing where I was and who she was, I relaxed and rubbed the sleep from my eyes. "I'm sorry Poppy. I didn't mean to yell at you. You just startled me, is all."

"Y-yes m-m-miss, Poppy is sorry she should have taken more care in waking you," she stammered.

"No, it's fine. I'm guessing someone sent you up here to fetch me?"

"Yes, m-miss. Master Malfoy sent me to see if you were ready to go downstairs for dinner. He sent Poppy in when you didn't answer when he knocked and the door is locked. M-master thought you might be getting dressed," she said as she eyed my decidedly inelegant attire.

"I've got plenty of time to get dressed. Why does he want to go down so early? Dinner's not for another hour," I mumbled in confusion.

Wide eyed, Poppy corrected, "B-but miss, dinner is in fifteen m-minutes!"

"Bloody hell!" I swore, jumping up and rushing to the adjoining room and wardrobe. "Tell Draco that I'll be out in a minute, Poppy," I called over my shoulder.

Ten minutes later, I opened the door to find Draco waiting patiently in the corridor. His eyes lazily drifted over me, taking in the embellished sweetheart neckline of the fitted floor length black dress, the bottom of which flared out a bit starting at my knees. It had taken a few minutes to get into it since I'd had to have Poppy come back and tighten the laces of the corseted back. Delicate diamond earrings and a wide cuff encircling my wrist completed the ensemble.

I hoped that mother's snarky comments about my wardrobe would be kept at bay for the night. I'd always appreciated fashionable things, but her ideas of fashion and mine differed greatly. She liked things that were eye catching and over the top, and I liked things that were sleek and classic. I figured the cut and embellishment of this dress was enough to satisfy her to some degree.

Part of me also hoped that Draco would like this dress as well. I stepped forward in my towering heels and found myself nearly eye level with him. I glanced up, starting to apologize and explain that I had fallen asleep, but instead found his lips covering mine. His arms snaked around me, drawing me closer.

When he finally released me smirking, he said, "You look positively delicious."

"And here I was thinking no one would like my dress," I laughed.

"Although I think I'd rather stay up here and take that lovely dress off of you, I think we're expected downstairs. Mother insisted that we have a proper Christmas Eve dinner."

"With everything that's been going on, I almost forgot about the holidays," I commented.

"If we can get through these few days with them breathing down our necks, we'll be on our way back to Hogwarts. I never thought I'd be so happy to get out of the manor," he replied.

By the time we'd finished lamenting our forced family time, we had arrived at the dining room. Mother could have put a Christmas tree to shame with her festive dress. Dad looked collected and relaxed like always as he smiled at me. Narcissa's choice of dress was more subdued than Mother's, but was clearly an expensive designer exclusive.

Pausing just long enough to allow them a good look at our attire, Draco led me to my seat and slid the chair out for me gracefully. Neither woman said anything about our tardiness. If this was the only Christmas miracle that I was going to get, then I was at least thankful for it.

Dinner conversation centered on the Christmas festivities of the next day, and I was simply thankful that they were giving discussions of our pending nuptials a break. Though she was never happy with anything I did, Mother at least refrained from making cutting remarks about my appearance.

Draco and my father had an interesting discussion about quidditch and the prospective rookies for the upcoming season. Before long, we were having dessert, and I realized that aside from the night that Narcissa had been absent from dinner, this had been the most pleasant meal I'd had at the manor.

On the second floor landing, we went our separate ways to our rooms. Without pausing at my door, Draco walked me straight to his room and led me to one of the chairs near the fireplace. Wait here he said, giving me a mischievous look. Slightly confused, but more than a little curious, I did as he asked. He came back bearing a small box with silky red ribbon tied around it.

"This is for you," he said as he handed it to me.

Surprised, I gently untied the ribbon and lifted the lid of the box. Nestled against the velvety interior was a small oval disk with tiny glittering diamonds set in the shape of my favorite constellation. I looked up at him, momentarily at a loss for words.

"You always wear that necklace, and it just seems like it should have something on it," he said as he stepped closer and reached around my neck to unclasp it. He lifted the pendant out of its box and slid it onto the chain before replacing it around my neck. "I know it's early, but Happy Christmas."

I reached up and felt the cool silver against my skin before closing the remaining distance between us and kissing him. Though he seemed fleetingly startled by my reaction, he quickly regained his composure and reciprocated my enthusiasm.

After a few moments, I broke away and leaned my head against his shoulder, remaining in the circle of his arms. "It's perfect. You know, it hasn't always been just the chain. Dad gave me this necklace and there was a star that hung from it, but one day Mother and I got into a fight and she ripped it off and threw it halfway across the room. Before I could get to it, she grabbed her wand and blasted the star off of it. I was able to repair the clasp and I refused to stop wearing it even though she had destroyed the pendant. I think this one suits me even better than the original one, though. Thank you for this."

"I always wondered why you wore just the plain silver chain," he replied mildly.

Snapping out of my memories, I took a step back and retrieved my wand from a concealed, magically enlarged pocket hidden in the embellished bodice of my dress. I quickly summoned something from my room, and waved off the curious look he was giving me.

The door opened and closed quietly and the small box whizzed in and landed in my outstretched hand. "Since we're giving Christmas presents early, it's only fitting that I give you yours now too," I said.

He took the small present and quickly peeled the wrapping paper away. Inside the box were the cufflinks that I'd bought him in Hogsmeade. They were a pair of silver dragons with small emeralds for eyes. "They're charmed so they'll loop themselves through, and they won't come out unless you want them too. That way you'll never lose them," I explained.

He smiled lifting one from the box and watching it stretch its tiny wings as he inspected it. "These are great. I'm always losing cufflinks, and of course dragons are perfect considering my name. Thank you for these," he said, looking genuinely pleased.

He leaned in to kiss me again and just as I felt him tug at the laces of my dress, I heard a loud CRACK.

"M-m-miss Daniels? Poppy is n-needing to deliver a message, miss," the house elf stuttered.

Releasing a groan of frustration, Draco took a breath and started to demand that she leave immediately, but I shook my head pressing my fingers to his lips. He looked like he still might kick her out, but he folded his arms and maintained his silence.

Assuming that she was going to give me some directive handed down from Narcissa, I resignedly turned to face Poppy. "What is your message then?"

"Miss's m-mother is wanting to see h-her at once," she replied miserably, glancing at Draco, obviously expecting some form of punishment for interrupting.

Sighing I said, "Thank you, Poppy. You can go."

She wasted no time in getting away from her glaring master. Turning back to a scowling Draco, I smiled wryly. "Even when she's not in the room, she's ruining my life. I'll go and see what she wants. Surely it won't take too long. Think you can find a way to stay awake and wait on me to get back?"

"I suppose I can find something to do until then," he answered.

"Good, because I'm still going to need someone to help me out of this dress," I remarked casually as I turned to leave.

He chuckled to himself and took a seat in front of the fire, picking up a book to occupy himself with until I returned. Out in the corridor, I realized that I had no idea where my parents were staying. Instead of going back and asking Draco, though, I summoned Poppy back.

She appeared looking nervous as usual. "Y-yes miss?" she asked.

"Can you take me to my mother? I don't know where their rooms are," I explained.

"Oh, yes of course Poppy can take you!" she nodded vehemently, large ears flapping as she did.

Most of the trip was familiar. Draco had shown me most of the manor. Finally she stopped in front of a door and bowed before disappearing again.

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